In Matthew 5. Jesus calls us to be better than the world. He says, “For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished. Therefore, whoever releases one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven (17-20 ESV). Moses laid out the laws in the Old Testament. Jesus made it so much harder to keep to God’s law with what he said in the text following verse 20. As sinful creatures, we cannot possibly keep God’s law 100% of the time. That’s where Jesus swoops in and covers us. We are held to this higher standard, but He paid the price when He died on the cross and rose from the grave.
It is infinitely more important to know and accept that Jesus died for us than it is to keep to the old covenant. That is not to say that following the standards laid out for us throughout scripture is not important. On the contrary, it is very important. But Jesus is the WHOLE point. His sacrifice was the fulfillment of prophecy and He is the only doorway to the Father’s kingdom. So don’t you think Jesus Christ is absolutely more important than… well, anything? I’d say so!
Ah, but we live in the world. We have social media and magazines emphasizing toxic self-image. Have we considered the damage things like Photoshop and SnapChat filters have done to our self-esteem? We hear we are not good enough. We hear that we aren’t smart, pretty, whatever enough. These are distractions. Were we not worth the Son of God dying for us? (The answer is yes. Yes, we were and are.) We are better than the world because we stand on the side of righteousness. We stand on the side of the highest standard – God’s standard – and so our individual shortcomings really pale beside the awesome might of our Holy Father.
And yet, we human animals constantly disregard this in favor of the standards we find in the world If we are great at our jobs, we can earn that bonus or higher salary. If we are pretty enough, we can attract that new romantic partner. If we are quick enough, we can get to the store for that last roll of toilet paper. Because the world has its own standard, we lose sight of God’s standard. Ever is the power of rationalization as present as it is when we have another bill to pay. God’s commandments don’t carry the same weight when we have to scramble to make end’s meet just to keep the air conditioning running another month. How about when we have seen loved ones abused by those who should look out for their well-being? The world says we can achieve any dream, but really, most people are merely looking to get by.
We forget the Lord is still with us. He tells us, “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future” (Jeremiah 29:11). Brothers. Sisters. I tell you this. “Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong” (1 Corinthians 16:13 ESV). God has not abandoned us. This world is our testing ground. Until our last breath, we shall find things to distract us from the higher standard that comes by living a Christ-based life. Time will chip away at tour dedication. Not always with that devil on our shoulder either. No, more often than not, it will come in perceived necessity and when all cards appear stacked against us.
Have faith. Recenter daily. Pray for direction. And above all, remember that Jesus Christ died for us, so we do not have to live the proverbial checklist. Just accept Him and allow the Holy Spirit to transform your life. Because God’s standards are worth banking eternity on.